Starting on September 5, you will be able to access the CBS Evening News from the comfort of your laptop. That’s the good news. The bad news? After a series of what seemed to be good moves, CBS is taking a step backward. This time, it’s a classic case of protectionism.
The question is, of course, who is CBS protecting?
With Katie Couric at the helm, CBS is hoping to attract a younger viewing audience. Setting aside the fact that the audience they’re gunning for — the net generation — isn’t likely to be swayed by the addition of Couric, except from a curiosity perspective, CBS’s move seems like the same old appointment television with an online twist.
To watch the broadcast, you must register at the CBS site. Then you will be allowed to watch the program…at the time that is appropriate for you time zone. In my case, this is about the same as saying, “Don’t bother watching at all.” I’m sitting on the freeway during the nightly news. Have been for a long time. And based on the number of cars I see to left, front, back, and right (also, over and under me), I’m not alone. There are a lot of people who are potential evening news viewers who are, shall we say?, otherwise occupied.
If the networks want to reach out and touch a younger audience, step one will be to understand that the current time slot is inconvenient. All those potential viewers? They have lives. They have lots of news choices. Right now, I don’t see a good reason to change my news consumption habits.
Ostensibly, CBS is doing this to protect its affiliates. CBS, honey, I have to tell you: your affiliate isn’t losing a viewer. Your affiliate never had me. I’m not crazy about registering on your site, but, hey, I understand your logic. Sure, I think there are better ways to measure demographics, but I don’t expect old webmasters to change their tricks. You can use that registration to better serve me, the consumer. Like, for example, offering me the region-appropriate ads that are surely the only reason for this dance. If you’re talking national ad sales, what does it matter what time zone I’m in?
Oh wait…are the East Coast viewers getting better commercials than the West Coast audience? Is that what you’re hiding from us?
CBS, think about your audience. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish. I think we can come together. As World News Tonight producer Jon Banner noted, there is a difference. They’re starting with the assumption of their “…online audience as having separate viewing habits and desires from those who watch news on TV…”
Yes, CBS, it’s true.